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Epoetin administrated after cardiac surgery: effects on renal function and inflammation in a randomized controlled study

Sophie de Seigneux1, Belen Ponte1, Lucien Weiss2, Jérôme Pugin3, Jacques André Romand3, Pierre-Yves Martin1 and Patrick Saudan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Service of Nephrology, Department of Medical Specialties, Geneva University Hospitals, Rue Gabrielle-Perret Gentil 4, 1211, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Department of internal medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland

3 Service of General Intensive Care, Department of Anesthesiology, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland

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BMC Nephrology 2012, 13:132  doi:10.1186/1471-2369-13-132

Published: 3 October 2012



Experimentally, erythropoietin (EPO) has nephroprotective as well as immunomodulatory properties when administered after ischemic renal injury. We tested the hypothesis that different doses of recombinant human EPO administered to patients after cardiac surgery would minimize kidney lesions and the systemic inflammatory response, thereby decreasing acute kidney injury (AKI) incidence.


In this double-blinded randomized control study, 80 patients admitted to the ICU post-cardiac surgery were randomized by computer to receive intravenously isotonic saline (n = 40) versus α-Epoetin (n = 40): either 40000 IU (n = 20) or 20000 IU (n = 20). The study lasted one year. The primary outcome was the change in urinary NGAL concentration from baseline and 48 h after EPO injection. Creatinine, cystatine C and urinary NGAL levels were measured on the day of randomization and 2–4 days after EPO injection. To assess acute inflammatory response, serum cytokines (IL6 and IL8) were measured at randomization and four days after r-HuEPO injection. Patients and care-takers were blinded for the assignment.


No patient was excluded after randomization. Patient groups did not differ in terms of age, gender, comorbidities and renal function at randomization. The rate of AKI assessed by AKIN criteria was 22.5% in our population. EPO treatment did not significantly modify the difference in uNGAl between 48 hours and randomization compared to placebo [2.5 ng/ml (−17.3; 22.5) vs 0.7 ng/ml (−31.77; 25.15), p = 0.77] and the incidence of AKI was similar. Inflammatory cytokines levels were not influenced by EPO treatment. Mortality and hospital stays were similar between the groups and no adverse event was recorded.


In this randomized-controlled trial, α-Epoetin administrated after cardiac surgery, although safe, demonstrated neither nephroprotective nor anti-inflammatory properties.

Trial registration number


Erythropoetin; NGAL; Cytokines; AKI